With cold temperatures still on the horizon for the next few weeks, your furnace is likely to continue running off and on for the next month. Luckily, most furnaces are tough, well-built machines, designed to run for sustained periods of time without major issues. However, if you detect a strange odor coming from your furnace, you could have a problem. If you have ever asked yourself, “why does my furnace smell?”, keep reading for the answers you need, courtesy of our heating and AC experts at EnviroSafe.
Explaining 5 Common Furnace Smells
- Sulfur: If you have ever noticed a sulfuric, rotten egg-like smell coming from your furnace, it may be because of a gas leak. While natural gas makes an excellent fuel source for a furnace, as it is extremely combustible and very energy-efficient, it can also be extremely dangerous, should a problem occur in your system. Watch out for symptoms associated with gas leaks, such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. If you do detect this smell on your property, avoid using anything flammable, call a professional, and get your family out of the house ASAP.
- Dirty Socks: You will probably recognize that dirty sock smell from any time you’ve ever stepped inside a locker room. The odor you are smelling is an accumulation of moisture, and the bacteria that comes with it. You may begin to pick up this odor coming from your furnace when condensation accumulates on the coils—usually as a result of turning the thermostat up and down too much. Contact an experienced HVAC technician for a furnace cleaning if this smell appears in your home, and try not to play with your thermostat as much, especially since frequent thermostat adjustments force your HVAC equipment to work harder and may result in higher energy bills overall.
- Diesel: That diesel fuel smell coming from your furnace, similar to what you would sniff when filling up your car, is the result of too much oil in your system. Oil is another common furnace fuel, however, it can cause a fog to form in your system when you use too much of it. When this fog interacts with the unit’s heating element, the burning that releases a notable odor. Too much oil can cause your furnace to overheat, making it a severe fire hazard, so watch out for this odor, and call a technician right away if you detect this smell in your home. And speaking of fire hazards…
- Electrical Burning: Have you ever smelled a burnt wire? You may find this smell is coming from your furnace when the fan motor overheats, and starts using too much electricity. This is fairly common as the components in your system start to age and wear down. When your furnace’s fan motor consumes too much electricity, it may cause sparking, leading to burning in your wires and insulation. This can make your furnace extremely dangerous for your entire property, in addition to forcing you to pay for significant repairs or even replacement. That’s why it’s important to call a technician immediately if this burning sensation is coming from your unit.
- Must: When your furnace sits dormant for months at a time, it is only natural for it to accumulate a significant amount of dust. Then, when your system is fired up, this dust and debris will burn off, resulting in the musty smell you may find coming from your furnace. Luckily, this smell is usually no major cause for concern, though you may want to replace your furnace filter to improve your system’s performance, not to mention your general indoor air quality. You can also reduce dust accumulation and improve your system’s performance overall by calling for annual furnace maintenance.